sick a day in my life, this healthy 40-something would
leave the hospital 21 days later looking more like a feeble
For the first two days, I riled in pain, curled in a fetal
position with morphine dripping into my veins. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me. I muttered my
schedule for the coming week to my wife.
“I’m supposed to fly out Monday for a program in
Atlanta on Tuesday. I need you to call another trainer to
see if he can take my place, and then call the client to see
if they’ll accept a substitute. Then, you need to call the airline and change the flights ...”
I was giving away work and watching money go out the
door. And it was about to get worse.
After two days with no diagnosis, doctors performed
exploratory surgery. Five-and-a-half hours later, they
rolled me into recovery. There my wife whispered that the
pain I felt was a blood clot that had killed 60 percent of
my small intestines. Doctors had removed 10 feet of dead
tissue and I had an ostomy bag on my side.
Soon, my surgeon came to my bedside and said, “Your
wife tells me you’re a speaker and you travel all over for
work. Well, you’re not going to be able to do that anymore. I don’t want you to do anything for the next
six months except rest and
recover. If you listen to me,
you’ll be OK. If you don’t listen to me, you’ll die.”
Along with my character
flaw of “going overboard,”
I also lacked patience and
humility. Well, God had just
wiped up a big dose of both, and I humbly accepted the
My condition worsened in the coming hours, days and
weeks. I crashed that night, endured life-threatening and
life-saving emergency surgery the next day, followed by 12
days in intensive care, and a third surgery six weeks later
with another extended hospital stay.
your tragedy may be a blessing in disguise. many
speakers develop a new signature story. some learn
new skills and become a subject expert in a new field.
Prepare for the Unexpected
What can you do to prepare your speaking business for illness, death or disaster? First, consider what events might
seriously interrupt your business, such as your own illness,
fire, natural disasters (flood, tornado, hurricane, etc.), robbery of your office, theft by employees, negligence, the
death or illness of your spouse, the death of a business
partner, or an economic downturn. Next, ponder how
these events would impact your business.
The following guidelines will help you sustain your business during crises. Some tips apply to illness and death, others apply to natural disasters, and many tips apply to both.
• Make it easy for your spouse or family to collect outstanding debts by creating a folder with unpaid invoices,
including pertinent contact information.
• Make sure your family can easily view your calendar,
access client contact information and notify your clients
regarding your impending absence from an engagement.
• Establish a relationship with speakers in your area of
expertise who can fulfill your commitments. Draw up an
agreement stating how fees will be split and, in the spirit
of NSA and Cavett Robert, CSP, CPAE, whether the
other speaker may be willing to remit a portion of the
fees back to you in your time of need.
• Review your contracts to determine your obligation to
reimburse the client for travel expenses for canceled trips,
as well as your liability if a client has expended funds to
fly employees to a site for a special training.
• Purchase travel insurance with every airline ticket.
• Consider creating an escrow account to hold all deposits